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In New York City, Russian Americans Support Trump Despite Recent Scandals

May 19, 2017
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Russian Americans have been among President Donald Trump's most loyal supporters. After a week of scandals, many say they're unfazed by the recent scandals roiling Washington.

We're going to go now to the Brighton Beach neighborhood of New York City, home to one of the country's highest concentrations of Russian Americans and other migrants from the former Soviet Republic. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports that support for the president there is unwavering and might even be growing.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: A few steps off the sweltering Brighton Beach boardwalk, a group of Russian-American seniors is dancing to a traditional band inside the cool, dark air-conditioned Beach Cafe.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in Russian).

SIEGLER: Hardly a few seconds after I announced my presence, the band stops, and the lead singer asks the crowd if anyone wants to talk to a reporter about President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Russian).

SIEGLER: There are many takers, including Dora Bram who says adamantly that she still trusts Mr. Trump despite what's been in the American news lately.

DORA BRAM: After Obama, he is more, more, more respectable, you know?

SIEGLER: Sure, Trump is unpredictable, she says. But she thinks he's not being given any chance to govern. Change takes time.

BRAM: Not maybe so fast, but in the near years, he will do it if the American people will give him such opportunity.

SIEGLER: Nearby, Margarita Vierba is more eager to talk about Mr. Trump's first foreign trip than the flurry of reports slamming his administration's alleged ties to Russia.

MARGARITA VIERBA: I want him to be more stronger with Israel politic, with ISIS, with all terrorists.

SIEGLER: Like many in Brighton Beach, dubbed Little Russia, Vierba migrated here after the Iron Curtain fell. And she thinks the recent scandals in Washington are a distraction.

VIERBA: I just want Trump to do what he promised before the vote.

SIEGLER: People here see Trump as strong. He represents how things used to be in America, they say. And some, though not all, even think he'll stand up to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The politics here are complicated. This neighborhood is also mostly fixed income and elderly residents.

PAT SINGER: They know they're struggling. The cost of living keeps going up and up.

SIEGLER: Pat Singer is the founder of the Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association. Her Ukrainian grandparents migrated to Brighton Beach in the early 1900s. And today she's a rare Democrat.

SINGER: Does Trump have any compassion for them? No. He's not going to help social security. He's not going to help these people. He's helping his people up there in the 1 percent there.

SIEGLER: Singer says she's not surprised her neighborhood still supports President Trump. If anything, it's been getting stronger over the past few weeks.

SINGER: Because they're not reading the American papers. They're reading what's being fed to them. And it's a bunch of propaganda, you know, garbage.

SIEGLER: She's referring to the Russian media, which she says is what most people in Brighton Beach pay attention to. On the streets that fan out from the boardwalk, Russian TV blares out from the bodegas, the Russian butchers and delis. Russian newspapers are easier to find than the English ones. It's a pretty insular tight-knit neighborhood. And it's not always easy to find someone who speaks English.

ALEXANDER EDMUND: You want my mind about Trump?

SIEGLER: A man named Alexander Edmund is willing to give me an earful. He's working at a small shoe repair shop just a window, really, off the Brighton Beach Bazaar.

EDMUND: Impeachment - it never will be. This is Trump - good guy, very good guy.

SIEGLER: He does have one criticism of the president, though - he tweets too much. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.